Instore - August 2018 - 18
Red Hen currently gets about 80 percent of its flour from a farmer in
Quebec. Forget state - that's another country. But it's still just 150 miles
Once again, it all comes back to your definition of "local."
Not only can it be a challenge to get the volumes you need when you
source locally, George says -it's also often a battle to get the word
out. "I find that you really have to announce it boldly," he says. "Just
saying that it's local on your ingredients list captures just a fraction of
Red Hen Baking Co. partners with local growers
and millers on many of its artisan breads.
cupcakes and other baked goods from two local vegan bakers and
cupcakes, fudge and other products from other local suppliers.
In the summer Dorothy Lane stores lure customers with cookouts that
feature roasted corn, smoked pulled turkey, hot dogs, beef and bison
burgers and other seasonal favorites -all made from locally grown or
To celebrate its commitment to local, each fall Dorothy Lane holds a
Local Harvest Dinner for its farmer supplier partners. Half of the tickets
for the event, which is slated for Sept. 20 this year, go to farmers, half
to customers who are randomly selected. This will be the company's
seventh year hosting the event.
Since 2000, Middlesex, Vermont-based artisan bakery Red Hen Baking
Co. has sourced a significant amount of whole wheat and bolted flour
from a local farmer, says Randy George, Red Hen's baker/owner. In recent
years weekly volumes reached 1,500 pounds. "Usage went way up a few
years ago after he put a bolter in to sift out the bran," George says.
That said, Red Hen began working with an Ithaca, New York-based
grower this summer to help replace some of that lost production, and
sourcing locally will remain a priority, George says, going forward.
18 * AUGUST 2018 * instore
One big local success for Red Hen has been its Cyrus Pringle bread,
named for a famous Vermont wheat breeder. In addition to the name,
"there's a whole story that goes along with it," George says. "It's great for
marketing." With the loss of some of its Vermont production, however,
Red Hen recently had to amend the Cyrus Pringle label and marketing
materials to reflect that some of the wheat used to make it came from
Quebec. In its place is language about Cyrus Pringle being made "in
honor of" a great Vermont baker.
"It's really important that you not make any false claims," he says. "And
your marketing has to be nimble enough to keep up with the changes
that are going to happen."
Just as Red Hen reaps the rewards of sourcing locally, so do grocery
retailers benefit from buying bread from local artisan bakers like
Red Hen. "Vermont is amazing about having a customer base that's
committed to local food," he says.
Taste, freshness, community
It's not always practical to source locally - particularly fruits and
vegetables -when you live in a part of the country where all four
seasons have meaning, but companies like Kansas City, Kansas-based
retailer Balls Food Stores Inc. still do as much as they can to tap into
the power of local.
Balls, which operates the Price Chopper and Hen House banners,
sources fruits and vegetables from Kansas, Missouri and other regional
growing areas as soon as spring arrives, says Mike Tilden, the company's director of deli and bakery. Much of that produce goes into the
chain's salad bars and other fresh deli offerings.
RED HEN BAKING CO.
This year, however, the farmer announced his retirement, which drove
home to George and Red Hen one of the potential pitfalls of relying on
local supplies. "One of the challenges of working with local farmers is
that, because they're so small, a lot can depend on one individual."
There also can be an educational curve, George says, when it comes to
educating people about local specifically as it relates to bread. "Baking
is different," he says. "Where the wheat comes from - that matters to
people if it's made locally. Flour, though, is a little more abstract. You
need to educate people and you only have a few words and seconds to